Monday, September 24, 2012


By Janet Steinberg, Travel Editor

Bom Dia (good morning) was my sunny greeting as I arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz in Lisbon, Portugal. 

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, long considered the city’s premier hotel, reflects the nobility and charm of historic Portugal.  It was there that I chose to spend the three days prior to my embarking on Silversea’s Silver Whisper for a cruise that would sail me to such memorable sites as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the WW ll Normandy Landing Beaches in France.

Situated atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz provides a glorious bird’s eye view of Eduardo VII Park, St. George’s Moorish Castle and the Tagus River.  It is the perfect starting point for exploring the city’s unique architecture.  The interior of the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon showcases 18th-century replica furnishings, an outstanding collection of contemporary Portuguese tapestries; and paintings and sculpture that are examples of the city’s finest art.  It is truly a landmark establishment in all senses of the word.  


Portugal’s capital city, renowned for its indigenous pastel stone, is illuminated by the extraordinary amount of light that is reflected off the massive expanse of the Tagus River.  Little wonder that the Tagus is said to be a large natural mirror that amplifies the aurora of the sun. It has long been argued whether the Tagus River, a winding silver ribbon that mirrors the city, ebbs up to meet the city--or whether Lisbon extends down to meet the river.  Whatever the case, the city’s seven hills, and the wide mouth of the Tagus, make Lisbon one of the most charming cities in Europe.

Lisbon (Lisboa), Portugal, a scenic, cosmopolitan city, is the cultural heart and soul of Portugal.  The Lisbon Tourist Board claims there are 92 palaces, 67 public gardens, 55 fountains, 44 arches/archways, and 51 museums in the city.  Among the best of those museums are the CentrCultural de Belém, one of the greatest cultural centers in Europe offering exhibits, performing arts, gardens, restaurants and shops. The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga was founded in 1884. It houses sculptures, drawings, jewels, pottery, textiles, paintings and furniture from the 12th to early 19th century.  The Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) is one of the most important museums in all of Europe. It features over 17,000 items of the sea and 1,500 ship drawings and plans.  Another fine museum is the Museu do Centro de Arte Moderna, which has a twentieth century art collection.

The Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), built in the year 1521, looks like a miniature castle on the banks of the Tagus River.  The influence of the Tagus, the river that empties into the Atlantic Ocean, dates back in Lisbon’s history to the time when the Greeks and Phoenicians set up trading posts at the mouth of the river. 

BELEM TOWER (Torre de Belem)

Gray Line’s hop-on hop-off bus is a great way to see Lisbon.  Gray Line’s bus tours in Lisbon will take you to such attractions as Praca do Comercio (Black Horse Square); Sao Jorge Castle, with its panoramic views of the city; Edward VII Park; the Cathedral, with its Arab mosque design; the Chiado area's outdoor elevator designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame; the Torre de Belem (Tower of Belem) and the Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to Prince Henry the Navigator).


Lisbon is known for its hearty, reasonably priced Portuguese cuisine.  Fresh seafood is a staple of the Portuguese diet.  Regional specialties include: grilled sardines, seafood stew called caldeirada, and a hearty soup of spicy sausage and potatoes known as caldo verde.  

Varanda Restaurant, in the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, overlooks Eduardo VII Park and the hotel's terraces. It features a buffet renowned for its variety, while in the evening caldeiradas and cataplana are amongst the rich variety of authentic and diverse Portuguese dishes on the menu.

Largo Restaurant, in Lisbon’s sophisticated Chiado district, is located in an old cloister near the Lisbon Opera House.  In addition to its evocative décor, Largo’s eclectic menu offerings please the eyes as well as the taste buds.  For a traditional Portuguese treat, from a secret monastery recipe, head to Pastéis de Belém bakery for one of their custard tarts straight out of the oven.
Following any dinner in Lisbon, one should experience the melancholy fado, the national song of Portugal, at a fado club.  Fado, a dialogue of emotions between a round Portuguese guitar and a sad voice, is a singing expression of the state of the soul.  The word fado--from the Latin fatum--signifies prophecy or fate: a life commended by the oracle, one that nothing can change.

If you have more than one day in Lisbon, get out of town.  Gray Line offers a delightful day trip to Sintra, the fairytale town of castles and palaces, where Portuguese royalty spent their summers.   Because of its 19th century Romantic architecture, Sintra was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

We headed out in the direction of the majestic and romantic Pena Palace, situated on a high mountain peak. The Palace is an eclectic mixture of styles.
We continued on to Sintra where we stopped for lunch and free time in the village, abounding in antique shops, handicraft shops, restaurants, and tea-rooms. Don’t miss tasting the deliciously well-known tarts called "Queijadas."  Our next stop was Colares, a region famous for its table wines. Then it was on to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe. Driving along the beaches of Guincho, we saw the beautiful Boca do Inferno, all the while enjoying the gorgeous ocean scenery. In Cascais we had a colorful glimpse of this traditional fishing town. 
 We returned to Lisbon via the Estoril Coast, finishing with a panoramic view of the turn-of-the-century luxury resort of Estoril with its renowned casino and gardens.
On the following day, as we sailed from Lisbon on Silversea’s Silver Whisper, we got a second chance to marvel at Lisbon’s waterfront as the ship sailed along the Tagus River to the Atlantic Ocean.

JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 38 national Travel Writer Awards and an International Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio.

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